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Brain cancer treated with stem cells

Scientists used healthy donor therapy in mice and it showed 'profound efficacy'

Scientists have developed a way to attack glioblastoma cancer cells, one of the most lethal and difficult to treat brain tumors because it is born in the support of brain tissue, making the task of sending drugs to the affected area more complex.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital tested the therapy with stem cells from healthy donors in mice and showed profound efficacy after surgical removal, and found no signs of toxicity .

Khalid Shah of Harvard said this is the first study to identify receptor targets on tumor cells before starting treatment, and it is a gel-encapsulated, biodegradable stem cell therapy.

The main objective of this strategy was to create an immediate solution that can be administered once the removal surgery is finished, since the tumor progresses very quickly. In that sense, biodegradable hydrogel capsules are capable of transporting stem cell therapy to the brain without colliding with the cerebrospinal fluid.

In general, brain cancers, such as glioblastoma, are very difficult to treat because conventional treatments cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. There is a high rate of recurrence of these tumors after patients undergo excisional surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

This discovery paves the way for clinical trials to be implemented and extended to another range of solid tumors in the future, say its authors. In this regard, the Venezuelan neurologist Ronald Torrealba, known as Dr Ron, explains that the new treatment guidelines published in the journal Nature, based on animal models, suggest that therapy with stem cells from healthy individuals could be used.
These can be applied directly on tumor cells after surgical treatment, which refers to surgery and therapy with pluripotent stem cells, said the specialist, who consults in the states of Mérida, Apure and Caracas.

He adds that these studies are still in phase I; however, it is promising, as animal models have shown a greater chance of survival when stem cell therapy was combined with surgery.

Torrealba, who gives advice on his own account on instagram @eldoctorron, stressed that if possible, this type of treatment can, in the future, reduce the incidence of radionecrosis due to radiotherapy and systemic toxicity of chemotherapy, which are part of the basic treatment of the gliomas.

This would translate into preserving the greatest amount of healthy tissue in the patient by resecting part of his tumor and then using stem cells to increase his survival. In this experiment, 100% of the mice that received the capsules after surgery lived more than 90 days, compared to those that did not, who only lived 55.

How is the tumor born?

The glioblastoma or glioblastomas, is a tumor that arises from the support cells of the brain tissue, they can be primary; they originate in the cells of the brain and metastatic structures.

Specialists point out that its incidence is 21 per 100.000 inhabitants and per year it reaches 18 cases per million, while the current life expectancy for these patients is 56% at five years, but this is associated with several factors such as behavior biology of the tumor (histology).

Multiform glioblastomas are the ones with the shortest life expectancy due to their location within the nervous system, with brainstem glioblastomas having the worst prognosis.

It can originate from lesions of a lower histological grade such as grade II and III astrocytomas, but 90% are not associated with precursor lesions, and regarding the treatment of malignant glioblastoma, there are several options: surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, therapy gene and general medical measures.


Glioblastoma is more common in older adults, but it can occur at any age. It causes headaches and seizures, as well as nausea and vomiting. It is a constantly growing tumor, so it occupies more and more space in the brain, generating pressure inside the skull.

It can also cause trouble speaking, drowsiness, loss of appetite, vision changes, bleeding, and more. According to the Mayo Clinic, diagnosis includes neurological exams, imaging tests and biopsy with removal of a tissue sample.

Each treatment regimen will depend on the clinical phenotype and imaging. The World Health Organization classifies glioblastoma as a grade IV tumor, which are those that tend to grow and spread rapidly.

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